WASHINGTON, D.C. – October 30, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Senator John Boozman and Congressman Steve Womack today delivered statements about the importance of the Assuring Private Property Rights Over Vast Areas to Land (APPROVAL) Act before Congressman Bruce Westerman and members of the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans.
The APPROVAL Act would restore states’ rights to approve or reject an electric transmission project prior to the federal government exercising its power to take private property. The legislation directs the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to obtain the approval of both the governor and the state’s public service commission before approving any Section 1222 transmission project and subsequent use of federal eminent domain, as well as the approval of any tribal government for affected lands. Boozman and Womack introduced the legislation earlier this year with the full support of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation.
“The APPROVAL Act will reinforce and build grassroots support for renewable energy. States and local communities must know their voices will be heard in the transmission siting process – and that a transparent process will be followed. When communities have this assurance, they can get behind the renewable projects that our country needs. Unfortunately, due to the current structure of Section 1222, support for such projects has been set-back in Arkansas by a sense that a federal agency may force a transmission project for which there is no clear demand or demonstrated need,” Boozman told subcommittee members.
“Initially, [Clean Line Energy] was denied a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to exist as a utility in the state of Arkansas by the Public Utility Commission, because the project was determined not to be in the best interest of Arkansans. As a result, DOE is in the process of considering a new type of partnership, potentially usurping the state’s role, ignoring the lack of necessity for transmission in the region, and setting a dangerous precedent for the future of federal authority… [The APPROVAL Act] makes a small adjustment to the approval proceedings for interstate transmission projects which will then allow governors and state public service commissions to have a say in the process prior to DOE exercising any federal eminent domain power,”Womack said in his statement.
“The right to private property is fundamental to a free society. Unfortunately, the federal government continues to show little respect for this important personal liberty. I strongly support the APPROVAL Act because it safeguards landowners from the threat of having their property taken through eminent domain. This bill provides flexibility and empowers our states by ensuring they have the final say on eminent domain. I was pleased to see the Natural Resources Committee debate the APPROVAL Act and look forward to its passage,” Westerman said.
The hearing also included testimony from Little Rock Attorney Jordan Wimpy who represents Downwind, LLC and Golden Bridges, LLC and serves as counsel to Arkansas property owners concerned with the Section 1222 transmission project in Arkansas.
“A failure to act on H.R. 3062 will not only impact my home state – the Natural State – and my firm’s clients and the many other impacted property owners, businesses and local governments in Arkansas, it will set the precedent and solidify the federal government’s inappropriate and unjust process for future projects across the country and in many other states,” Wimpy said in his statement.
Congressman Steve Womack has represented Arkansas’s Third Congressional District since 2011 and serves on the House Appropriations Defense, Financial Services and General Government, and Labor-Health and Human Services subcommittees and the House Committee on the Budget.